I just talked to San Diego Unified school board member Richard Barrera, who spent Tuesday in Sacramento along with board member John Lee Evans. He described a whirlwind day of meetings with seven San Diego legislators or their staffers, trying to convince them to send federal stimulus money back to San Diego Unified.

Barrera said a few choices at the state level could make the difference between San Diego Unified getting $6 million or $28 million. I don’t think there’s any time that schools would cough at an extra $22 million, but it is especially welcome right now.

Here’s how it works: San Diego Unified ended up cutting its budget more deeply than it originally expected because the state made deeper-than-expected cuts to categorical funds that are earmarked for specific purposes, such as helping English learners. If the state cuts those funds, it hits big urban districts like San Diego Unified, which has lots of English learners, more heavily than less diverse districts in the suburbs.

So Barrera and Evans asked state legislators to put the money back where they took it from. When the federal stimulus money flows to the state, they want it to help remedy the cuts to categorical funds, instead of simply being divvied out equally.

Barrera said they got the thumbs-up from state Senator Christine Kehoe and Assembly members Lori Saldana, Mary Salas and Marty Block. State Senator Denise Ducheny is supportive, Barrera said, but wants to understand exactly how much federal money is involved before committing to the plan. Staffers for Assemblymen Nathan Fletcher and Joel Anderson, who didn’t meet with the school board members personally, said they had to talk directly to the assemblymen before signing on.

He was unsure how much the trip cost. Check back for more details soon.


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